The first African-American to earn aviator wings in the Marine Corps and the first one to receive a brigadier general star in the Corps has been honored as the namesake of the Navy's upcoming DDG 121, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.
The Marine Corps' first African-American aviator and first African-American general officer, Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps courtesy photo)
Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. joined the Navy in 1950 and was commissioned as a Marine officer in 1952. He served in Korea and Vietnam before retiring in 1988. Before his retirement, he was the senior-most aviator in the Marine Corps and the Department of the Navy.
During his time in Korea and Vietnam, Petersen flew over 350 combat missions. He flew more than 4,000 hours during his career and was shot down over Vietnam in 1968. His awards include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
"The courage and perseverance of Lt. Gen. Petersen throughout his distinguished and ground-breaking career make him especially deserving of this honor," Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said. "Those who serve aboard DDG 121 will, for decades, carry on the storied legacy of this Marine Corps hero."
An illustration of the USS Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen during a Nov. 9 ceremony unveiling the future destroyer. (Photo: Department of Defense live stream screenshot)
The USS Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. is expected to reach the fleet in 2020 and will have the mission to fight against threats from the air, surface ships, and underwater vessels. The ship will be built according to Flight IIA configuration which features improved anti-air capabilities through updated AEGIS missile systems.
The newest versions of the Flight IIA configurations allow these ships to defend against multiple incoming missiles at once. The USS John Paul Jones shot down three missile targets at nearly the same moment in a 2014 test.